Srinagar: In a major terror attack, seventeen Army jawans and officers were killed and twenty more wounded in Uri close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district on Sunday. All the four terrorists involved in the pre-dawn attack at an Army base in the area were also killed in Army’s retaliatory fire, ending a 5-hour-long fight at around 8 am, police and Army sources in Srinagar said.
A group of four heavily armed militants attacked a battalion centre close to the Army’s 12 Infantry Brigade headquarters on the peripheries of Uri town, 102-km northwest of capital Srinagar, around 3 am. The area falls in close proximity to the LoC from three sides-Hajipir, Kamalkot and Kaman post and the 12 Infantry Brigade is spread over a couple of dozen acres of sloppy land midst pine woods on both sides of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road.
The firing stopped at 8 am “after all the four terrorists were neutralised”, said the sources. “We were woken up from deep sleep by loud sounds of blasts and gun fire around 3 am. We thought it could be the usual cross-border skirmish but when we peeked through the windows we saw the battalion headquarters of the Army in flames,” said Irshad Ahmed a local reporter.
With the first light, the Uri residents also saw a thick cloud of black and grey smoke raising above the Army base. “Simultaneously we could hear deafening sounds of firing and mortar shelling and then a huge blast and with that the firing stopped,” Ahmed said.
Official sources said it was a ‘fidayeen’ attack carried out by a freshly infiltrated group of militants who could have entered along the Salamabad Nallah into the town. It came in the dead of the night when the jawans of the Dogra Regiment were sleeping in a tent which caught fire due the explosion. The fire also engulfed the nearby barracks, they said.
“A group of heavily armed militants targeted the rear administrative base of a unit at Uri, Kashmir. In the counter action, four militants have been eliminated and combing operations are in progress,” the Army said in a statement.
“The administrative base had large strength of troops of units turning over after their tour of duty who were stationed in tents/temporary shelters which caught fire, and resulted in heavy casualties. We salute the sacrifice of 17 soldiers who were martyred in the operation,” the statement said.
Helicopters from the Army's 19 divisional headquarters in Baramulla were pressed into service and the injured Army jawans were evacuated from the encounter site. Most of them were brought to Srinagar where they have been admitted to the 92-Base Hospital.
While Home Minister, Rajnath Singh has postponed his visit to the US and Russia in the wake of the terror attack, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag will arrive in Srinagar shortly to visit the encounter site and also review the situation with the local Army commanders and other authorities in the Valley, official sources said. The Home Minister has also called an emergency meeting in Delhi to review the situation arising out of the terror attack. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, the Union Home Secretary, top Army, paramilitary and Home Ministry officials are attending it, reports said.
The Home Minister said in a series of tweets, “Keeping the situation of Jammu and Kashmir in mind and in the wake of the attack in Uri, I have postponed my visits to Russia and the US”. He also said, “I spoke to Governor (N.N. Vohra) and Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti) of Jammu and Kashmir regarding the attack in Uri. They have apprised me of the security situation in the state...I have given instructions to the Union Home Secretary (Rajiv Mehrishi) and other senior officers in the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) to closely monitor the situation.”
Sunday’s attack comes two years after militants had struck in a similar way at an Army base at Mohra in the same area. Ten jawans and officers were killed in the attack that took place on December 5, 2014.